Human remains discovered in South Downs village

Human remains have been discovered in a village at the foot of the South Downs.

The remains - skeletons of 64 people - were found during building work at St Mary’s Church in Thakeham.

They are the remains of men, women and children and are thought to be hundreds of years old.

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Now they are to be re-buried in a mass grave in the church grounds with a special service conducted by the vicar, the Rev Sara-Jane Stevens.

The dkeletons of 64 people were found beneath the church's old vestry

“We don’t know who they are, but, as Christians, we believe God knows who they are,” she said.

The skeletons were found buried beneath an old vestry while workmen were beginning to construct a new vestry in its place.

Cliff Purvis, chairman of the church’s building committee, said: “We don’t know who these poor souls are but, in the future, we will get a headstone commemorating their lives.

“We have no way of knowing when or how these people died.”

St Mary's Church, Thakeham

He said that, according to an archaeologist who inspected the site, the skeletons were laid in layers, 10 feet deep.

“Most of the bodies are full skeletons, some even still have their teeth,” said Cliff.

“It’s amazing how they have been preserved for hundreds of years.”

Since their discovery, the skeletons have been kept safely beneath and around the altar of the 12th century St Mary’s Church.

The vicar Sara-Jane Stevens will conduct a service at their re-burial on August 17.

“These were people buried in all good faith in a Christian graveyard,” she said.

She said efforts had been made to find out who the people were but they had drawn a blank.

“There was a poor house in the area so a likely story would be they were from there.”